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Human embryonic stem cell (HESC) research offers much hope for alleviating the human suffering brought on by the ravages of disease and injury.
Despite the tremendous therapeutic promise of HESC research, the research has met with heated opposition because the harvesting of HESCs involves the destruction of the human embryo. HESCs are harvested from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst, which consists of 30–34 cells.
The derivation of HESC cultures requires the removal of the trophoblast.
The potential therapeutic benefits of HESC research provide strong grounds in favor of the research.
If looked at from a strictly consequentialist perspective, it’s almost certainly the case that the potential health benefits from the research outweigh the loss of embryos involved and whatever suffering results from that loss for persons who want to protect embryos.To show that researchers who use but do not derive HESCs participate in an immoral activity, one would further need to establish their complicity in the destruction of embryos. But for the moment, let us address the argument that it is unethical to destroy human embryos.A premise of the argument against killing embryos is that human embryos are human beings.However, most of those who oppose the research argue that the constraints against killing innocent persons to promote social utility apply to human embryos.Thus, as long as we accept non-consequentialist constraints on killing persons, those supporting HESC research must respond to the claim that those constraints apply to human embryos.The issue of when a human being begins to exist is, however, a contested one.The standard view of those who oppose HESC research is that a human being begins to exist with the emergence of the one-cell zygote at fertilization.While each of the cells is alive, they only become parts of a human organism when there is substantial cell differentiation and coordination, which occurs around day-16 after fertilization.Thus, on this account, disaggregating the cells of the 5-day embryo to derive HESCs does not entail the destruction of a human being. Ethical Considerations on Stem Cell Research, Pluripotent Stem Cells, Deepa Bhartiya and Nibedita Lenka, Intech Open, DOI: 10.5772/54375. Ethical Considerations on Stem Cell Research, Pluripotent Stem Cells, Deepa Bhartiya and Nibedita Lenka, Intech Open, DOI: 10.5772/54375.Available from: We are Intech Open, the world's leading publisher of Open Access books. Our readership spans scientists, professors, researchers, librarians, and students, as well as business professionals.